Sheriffs battle spread of jailhouse hooch

first_imgIt’s the latest push to try to reduce violence in the 20,000-inmate system, where more than 5,000 assaults are reported each year. Nine homicides have occurred in the past seven years, including a case in 2003 in which two inmates were drunk on pruno before they fatally beat a cellmate. Pruno has triggered many fights through the years, documented in annual reports by the Los Angeles Office of Independent Review, which oversees internal investigations at the Sheriff’s Department and makes disciplinary recommendations. “We see pruno-related incidents all the time,” said Rob Miller, deputy chief attorney for the Office of Independent Review. “It has proven to be a very tenacious problem.” Recently, a group of inmates assaulted deputies with their fists, heads and feet. “It was over quickly, but it was clear that it was very much a pruno-fueled, liquid-courage thing,” Miller said. “It probably would not have happened if they were not liquored up.” In December 2003, two inmates had been drinking pruno before they attacked a fellow inmate who was acting strange and talking to himself. The inmate died from his wounds a day after being found by a deputy, according to the Office of Independent Review in a study of five jail homicides between October 2003 and April 2004. But pruno has been discussed and worried about by custody officials and celebrated by inmates for years. San Quentin Death Row inmate Jarvis Jay Masters calls for fruit cocktail, oranges, white sugar and ketchup in his 1992 poem “Recipe for Prison Pruno.” The poem, which interlaces details of his death sentence with the recipe, won an award from PEN, an international literary organization. Pruno is easy to make, requiring only a basic understanding of the fermentation process in which sugars are broken down into ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide in the presence of yeast. The jail-made concoction can come in various flavors. A prison wine or beer can be made from food that is given to inmates on a daily basis through one of their three meals. The key ingredient is fruit. Inmates will use rotten fruit such as oranges and apples and anything containing sugar. They use bread or donuts from the jail canteen to make a hoppy beer concoction. “Instead of drinking fruit punch for that day, they’ll stash it away,” said Deputy Robert W. Staggs, who searches cells with his dog Toby. “They’ll wait till they have 20, 30, 40 cartons of juice. “In a large trash bag, they try to brew it three to five gallons at a time. It’s extremely easy. You can brew a five-gallon batch in three days.” Those who are less savvy save the ingredients and send them to designated inmate brewmasters who have honed their talent by learning from other former masters. “It’s just like anything in custody,” said Dexter. “You have all different types. You have the guy who’s the artist who becomes the tattoo artist. Then there’s that one guy who’s been in and out of custody a few times and has that special gift and can put together a good batch of pruno.” The longer it is brewed, the stronger it gets. Deputies know the dangers and engage in a cat-and-mouse game with inmates to find the stuff. Inmates hide pruno in toilets, under bunks, under tables. On a recent morning, a canine unit with two deputies and two dogs swept through a dorm at Men’s Central Jail, trying to pick up the scent of pruno. Nothing was found that day. But it’s a daily ritual. The team searches the dorms, cellblocks, clothing-exchange rooms, trustee quarters, closets – anywhere contraband can be hidden. A search can take 15 minutes to a half-hour. “It’s a constant struggle,” said Deputy John Eidem, one of the two-man crew who searches with his dog Gunner. “Deploying these two dogs isn’t going to solve the problem.”160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! It may smell rotten, burn your gut and give you a nasty hangover – but it’s easy to make and it gets you drunk. And hundreds – possibly thousands – of gallons of it are being brewed each year by Los Angeles County inmates. The ubiquitous jailhouse hooch known as pruno has been blamed for sparking lethal violence in the nation’s largest jail system. And now the homemade tipple has become such a problem that the Sheriff’s Department has formed a task force to combat it. As part of the aggressive efforts to eradicate the contraband, sheriff’s officials have doubled the number of cellblock sweeps and plan to enlist the help of college chemists, brewmasters and vintners to test its potency and effects. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWhicker: Clemson demonstrates that it’s tough to knock out the champ“Anywhere anyone is incarcerated, they’re probably brewing pruno,” said Jim Dexter, a Sheriff’s Department food services operations sergeant who is heading up the task force. “I don’t understand how someone could drink it. It’s been described as smelling like vomit. “It is our goal to eliminate it. It all boils down to the safety of all the inmates.” Taking its name from the prunes once used to make it, pruno can be made from any fruit or juice stashed away by inmates. Its alcohol content typically ranges between that of beer and wine, or about 4 percent to 14 percent. In some 1,100 searches conducted so far this year, deputies have uncovered more than 370 gallons of pruno. That’s up nearly 60 percent over the 232 gallons found in 2006, when a team made more than 500 searches. The task force met last month for the first time with medical staff, lawyers and others to talk about the problem, and Dexter said he is set to contact university officials, brewmasters and vintners to invite them to join the task force. last_img read more

Rice economist advocates comprehensive immigration overhaul

first_imgFacebookTwitterPrintEmailAddThis ShareCONTACT: Franz BrotzenPHONE: 713-348-6775E-MAIL: [email protected] Rice economist advocates comprehensive immigration overhaulAs Congress prepares to vote this week on one aspect of immigration reform, an economist at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy has proposed a comprehensive solution to the issue of millions of immigrants living illegally in the United States.Dagobert Brito, the George A. Peterkin Professor of Political Economy, called for an immigration policy based on pragmatic grounds, concentrating on the question of what is good for the country but that is also fair to the current undocumented immigrant population. Brito’s compromise solution is centered on the adoption of a biometric Social Security card that contains personal information that cannot be counterfeited, along with strict enforcement of hiring laws.Brito’s proposal is described in a working paper posted on the Baker Institute’s website, new Social Security card, Brito argued, would discourage illegal immigration because it would deny access to the formal labor market to immigrants without documents. The plan would also mitigate the economic destabilization of a sudden mass deportation by spacing out the repatriation dates of current undocumented immigrants.Such a gradual rate of repatriations would be achieved, Brito wrote, by using the biometric Social Security card to register all illegal immigrants but granting them temporary resident status, accompanied by a grace period during which immigrants with illegal documents could obtain and submit a valid Social Security card to their employers. They could also file any claims for political asylum or other causes that may block their deportation.After the grace period expires, employers would be required to accept only the new biometric Social Security cards; the government would implement a fast-track system of deportation for those undocumented individuals who did not register.Under this system, illegal immigrants would have only two choices: 1) register and receive temporary legal status with the opportunity to participate in a lottery that offers the possibility of repatriation at a later date or 2) fail to register, which would be a violation that carried the penalty of immediate deportation. The only burden of proof on the government would be to prove failure to register, Brito wrote. He also urged careful drafting of the legislation to minimize the burden on the immigration courts without violating constitutional rights.The final step of Brito’s plan would involve assigning repatriation dates by lottery. He suggested these repatriation dates could be spaced over a period of two to 10 years. Such a time frame would mitigate hardship on affected immigrants and minimize disruptions to the labor markets. Furthermore, spacing repatriations over several years means that sufficient resources would be available to enforce the law at a reasonable cost. Subsequent lotteries could be used to offer permanent resident status to those individuals who meet desired qualifications.Brito concluded that an immigration plan based on a secure biometric Social Security card would remove incentives for people to immigrate illegally to the United States by denying them access to the labor market. It would also benefit immigrants by bringing them under the umbrella of law, thereby protecting them from criminal and economic exploitation. Finally, the data collected from all immigrants through the cards would facilitate the formulation of “a rational and well-informed immigration policy.” To speak with Brito, contact Franz Brotzen at [email protected] or 713-348-6775.last_img read more